Throughout this course, we want to emphasize that access should not be an afterthought or an add-on – rather a part of media creation, and one that can improve the media itself. Multimedia (television and radio broadcasts, podcasts, webinars, video, audio, social media posts, recorded lectures) must include transcripts and captions—text versions of speech and other important audio content—to be accessible to people who can’t hear all of the audio. And described video—a narrated or integrated description of visual elements—makes visual multimedia accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.
Transcripts are one way to access media without audio. For mediums such as podcasts and radio broadcasts, transcripts are another way to consume, research, and dig into subjects by reading rather than listening. Transcripts are also the first step to creating captions for video.
When dialogue is not properly captioned in film – for instance, when we see [speaking Spanish] instead of the actual translation of what the characters are saying, the message we get is that what is being said is not important. When the captions are not accurate or full of grammar and spelling errors, it becomes difficult to understand what’s happening – and everyone deserves to understand what is going on in the media they consume. Captions and transcripts also help verify the nature of a conversation, give time to process, offer context, and bring light to a situation. The more we include text as part of media, the more we open the possibilities of who can create, access and consume it.
Described video gives context to essential visual information for media consumers who are blind or have low vision, but it also levels the societal playing field by allowing everyone to enjoy media, engage with popular culture, and fully participate in society (CNIB, n.d.).
Image: A red illuminated sign that says ‘ON AIR’. Credit: Anne Zbitnew
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Audio transcription is the process of converting speech in an audio file into written text. This can be done manually or with software. Journalists and media makers use transcripts as their notes, and they are also used to caption video (Trint, 2019).
Typically, a narrator describes the visual-only content in the multimedia. Descriptions can also be integrated into the pre-production, production, and post-production phases of a video project (AMI, n.d.).